Sydney 2000 Paralympics: John Eden and Jeff McNeill – athletics

Sydney 2000 Paralympics: John Eden and Jeff McNeill – athletics
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Sydney hosting the Summer Paralympics in 2000 gave Paralympians and parasport a profile they hadn’t previously had in Australia.

This clip, from ABC News Sydney on 27 October 2000, exemplifies the interest the Games received as we see Paralympics stories lead a news bulletin hosted by Richard Morecroft. Morecroft hosted ABC Sydney’s nightly news bulletin from 1983 to 2002.

Many in the Paralympic movement look back on the 2000 Games as a watershed moment for disabled sport internationally and of disability awareness in Australia.

Reporter Paul Lockyer mentions the success of the Games, focusing on the personal stories of two of the athletes – John Eden and Jeff McNeill.

Eden, a leg-amputee athlete who was born in New Zealand, represented New Zealand at the Arnhem 1980 Paralympics in high jump, before representing Australia in Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 in discus. He won 4 medals in total – 2 bronze and 2 silver.

It’s powerful to see footage of Eden competing on the field and see how strong he is, juxtaposed with him talking in a press conference about how close he came to death because of drug and alcohol addiction after a motorcycle accident in 1976 saw him lose his right leg below the knee.

Lockyer links Eden’s story of triumph over adversity that of athlete Jeff McNeill who has a vision impairment.

Over his career as a sportsperson McNeill competed in high jump, 100m and marathon events. At a press conference, McNeill matter-of-factly lists the injuries he sustained from a car accident in early 2000. The courage and determination on display here exemplifies why Australians got behind its Paralympians in 2000.

McNeill says ‘I’m here and I’m racing and I’ll be competitive’.

Notes by Beth Taylor